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Police think argument led New Mexico sheriff’s deputy to kill colleague

Las Cruces police investigate a shooting scene at the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces, N.M., on Oct. 28. A Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy is thought to have shot and killed a fellow deputy at the hotel.
(Robin Zielinski / Associated Press)

A Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy was shot to death by a fellow officer at a Las Cruces, N.M., hotel early Tuesday morning after the two got into an argument at a nearby bar, law enforcement officials think.

Las Cruces police were called to the lobby of the Hotel Encanto about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, said spokesman Dan Trujillo, where they found Deputy Jeremy Martin, 29, who had been shot multiple times. Martin, who was found bleeding profusely just outside an elevator, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

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FOR THE RECORD

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4:14 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that police were called to the hotel at 12:30 a.m. Monday and that police held a news conference Monday morning. Both happened on Tuesday.

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The other deputy, Tai Chan, 27, has been charged with an open count of murder and is being held without bond in the Dona Ana County Detention Center, Las Cruces police said in a statement.

The two deputies had transported a prisoner for extradition to a federal prison in Safford, Ariz., Monday, said Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia. They were on the way back to Santa Fe when they decided to stay overnight in Las Cruces, Garcia said.

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According to the Las Cruces Police Department, the two men rented a hotel room about 4 p.m. Monday and went to a pub to drink that evening.

They got into an argument at the pub, which quickly escalated after they returned to their hotel room on the seventh floor around midnight, police say.

That’s when police think Chan fired several rounds at Martin with a semiautomatic weapon, killing him as he tried to flee into an elevator.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the argument, but Garcia said the incident is a “major shock.”

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“In this line of work, you worry about something like this happening daily, but not from one deputy to another,” Garcia told The Times by phone. “I haven’t dealt with anything in my 34-year career like this.”

According to Trujillo, the other deputy was not with Martin when police arrived.

After a search, police officers found Chan in a stairwell near the hotel roof and took him into custody. Officers later discovered that both men are deputies for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. A weapon was recovered at the hotel, police said.

Martin had been with the department for 2 1/2 years, Garcia said, and was married with three young children. The other deputy had worked for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department for about three years, he said.

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Neither man had any history of disciplinary problems, Garcia told reporters, both of whom he called “hardworking, committed individuals.” Although the two men did not usually work together, Garcia said, there was no indication of any problems between them.

“There was nothing to ever indicate that something like this would ever take place,” said Garcia, who appeared emotionally distraught while talking to reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning. “But we’re here for each other now as we grieve through this process.”

Garcia said Las Cruces police are leading the investigation into the shooting.

Las Cruces is about 280 miles southwest of Santa Fe.

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Staff writer Ryan Parker contributed to this report.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc.


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